Weekly Roundup

My view: The Youth PROMISE Act shifts focus to the proactive, Alisa Lee, Deseret News, May 5, 2016

The ACLU identified under-resourced schools as school-to-prison pipelines, pushing kids from school systems into the criminal justice system at an alarming rate due to overly harsh disciplinary policies. The students’ arrests are often of non-violent offenses such as dress code violations, disruptions in class and truancy. These disciplinary policies disproportionally affect minority children who receive much harsher penalties than their counterparts. At a middle school in Utah, two Native American boys were caught drinking cans of Dr. Pepper they took without permission from the faculty lounge. Their punishment? The boys were referred to law enforcement for “theft.” A recent report from the University of Utah Law School’s Public Policy Clinic found Native American students are four times more likely to receive a disciplinary action than white students.

The growing costs of juvenile incarceration rates in recent years has prompted policymakers evaluate other means to combat crime than imprisonment. Research shows comprehensive, evidenced-based programs for youth that focus on prevention and intervention programs greatly reduces crime and save much more than the cost when the avoided law enforcement and social welfare expenditures are considered. For the last eight years, Representative Bobby Scott, has focused on a legislative fix to reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency and violence. The Youth PROMISE (Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education) Act was recently re-introduced by Scott in the House on May 1, 2015. The bill amends the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 to establish a PROMISE Advisory Panel to assist the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to assess and develop standards and evidence-based and promising practices to prevent juvenile delinquency and gang activity. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention will be funded to award grants to local governments to plan and assess evidence-based and promising practices for juvenile delinquency and criminal gang activity prevention and intervention. In addition, a national research center for proven juvenile justice practices will provide information about evidence-based practices for violence prevention and intervention.

Solitary Confinement Is Now Banned In Country’s Largest Juvenile Justice System, Carimah Townes, Think Progress, May 4, 2016

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to outlaw solitary confinement for young offenders doing time in the country’s largest juvenile justice system. That means 1,200 juveniles will be kept out of dirty and “deplorable” restrictive housing in 16 juvenile halls and camps, come September.

Criminal justice advocates and scientists have long considered solitary confinement a form of psychological torture that also causes damage to the brain. Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl proposed the ban, citing atrocious conditions and research that says solitary reduces the likelihood of juveniles’ rehabilitation.

Young people who previously spent hours, days, and years in solitary described their experiences Tuesday, before the Board voted unanimously to eliminate the practice.

“We would be alone the majority of the time. No books to read. Nothing to write on. Just a mattress to sleep on,” 20-year-old Eddie Flores said of his experience. “I kept thinking, ‘What’s the point of changing if I’m just stuck in this room the whole time?’

Noting that he felt like a caged animal, another man in his early twenties testified, “Conditions were small concrete dirty room, the walls covered in dirt, dried up spit, the mattress was so ripped up it felt like I was laying down on a concrete or steel bars.”

To sever school-to-prison pipeline, bill would keep troubled kids in school, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT Mirror, May 3, 2016

At the state-run jail for youths convicted of offenses not serious enough to land them in the adult criminal justice system, most high-school aged students are reading at an elementary grade level.

And research shows that student suspensions, expulsions and chronic absenteeism contribute to a downward spiral that often ends with involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Tired of hearing such stories, members of the State House of Representatives have unanimously approved legislation that aims to sever the school-to-prison pipeline by keeping children in school or providing a quality alternative education program when they get into trouble. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

Arrest of young kids not isolated to Murfreesboro Case, Jessica Bliss, The Tennessean, May 2, 2016

Shock reverberated through Middle Tennessee in April when Murfreesboro police arrested 10 elementary-age students for not stopping a fight that occurred off campus days earlier.

Lawmakers, church leaders and social justice experts across the country questioned the rationale behind handcuffing and booking children that young. They pointed to the scarring effects on the student and their peers, as well as the societal pattern of pushing kids, especially the most at-risk, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

When it comes to the arrests of young children in Tennessee, what happened in Murfreesboro is not an isolated incident.

Last year, Tennessee law enforcement made 24,843 juvenile arrests. Of those, 1,960 were of children ages 6 to 12 — the same ages of the children arrested in the Murfreesboro case. The Murfreesboro police chief is expected to meet Monday night with community leaders to review a preliminary report on an internal investigation of the arrests.

Poetry Behind Bars: The Lines That Save Lives — Sometimes Literally, Colin Dwyer, NPR’s All Things Considered, April 30, 2016

Words Unlocked — an annual poetry curriculum and competition launched in 2013 by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings — draws submissions from students in juvenile correctional centers across the country. Poets in facilities from Alaska to Florida have sent in their work this year, according to CEEAS Director David Domenici, and the number of submissions has reached 1,000 and counting.

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